Interview: Talking Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag with Creative Director Jean Guesdon
Pirates, rum and Templars, oh my! The world of Assassin's Creed is now bigger than ever with Ubisoft's upcoming blockbuster, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. With the game's launch just over the horizon, we had a chance to chat with Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's Creative Director, Jean Guesdon, about the world, its design and how Black Flag will forever reshape a series that's delivered on so many levels.
[GameZone]: First off, thanks for joining us for an interview! Can you start off by giving our readers a better glance at what you do on Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, what that looks like on daily basis, and what other development areas you work closely with?
[Jean Guesdon]: I’m the Creative Director of the project. I am ultimately responsible for the content of the game, which means that I have my word to say on any aspect of story, gameplay, realization and overall structure of the game.
In the early phase of the project, the conception, my role is to align everybody in the same direction. I’m the owner of the “vision” of the game, and I have to share it so that everybody understands what we’re making altogether. Then, when in active development, I have to answer A LOT of questions, because it’s the time in the project when we have to make choices in one or another direction depending on resources or technical issues. And finally, in the polish phase, I have to remind everybody of the WHY of the project, the key elements they should focus on, like the fluidity for example.
Since the beginning I’m also working a lot with the producer and the management to make sure that both content and resources are aligned and that we properly manage our scope. Another team we’ve been really close during the project was the development marketing team – the guys responsible of the incredible assets you can see from trailers and screenshots. This is important so we can communicate on what the game really is.
[GZ]: One of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’s most fascinating feature is its immense Caribbean open world. In terms of size, how does this world rival past Assassin’s Creed titles – most notably the latest installment, Assassin’s Creed 3?
[JG]: Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag’s Caribbean world is massive indeed. If we take absolute numbers, it’s way bigger than any other Assassin’s Creed installment – probably around 60 times bigger, but the ocean helps a lot. In fact, we have roughly the same amount of ground surface, but we made the decision to scatter this land across the entire ocean, which is procedurally generated. This has mainly been made to make sure we were representing the Caribbean in the best possible way. Adventure, exploration, discovering islands and reaching far destinations were core to the experience we wanted to deliver.
[GZ]: The Assassin’s Creed series has always been one that’s balanced the lines of non-fiction and fable; evident by the worlds and characters the team has created over the years. Can you give us a glimpse at how your team goes about creating such a massive world that’s historically accurate, while adding in the fictitious aspects that engage your fans deeper in the game? And what would you say is the most difficult part of being historically relevant in Black Flag’s open world?
[JG]: You know, the Assassin’s Creed team is way bigger than just the Black Flag’s team. Before Black Flag I was in charge of the content for the entire franchise and I can tell you that we have such an awesome pool of writers that creating this massive but consistent universe is not that difficult.
First thing about historical accuracy is that for every project, should it be a game, a comic or a movie, we start by doing some homework, some research, about the time period we’re go to explore. We always start by historical research because it is naturally providing incredible settings; real stories and characters that make us want to use them. It has been the case once more with Black Flag. When we discovered the incredible cast of real pirates that was gathered in Nassau at the beginning of the 18th century, it was clear that we wanted our hero to meet them and live some epic moments with them.
After that writers and designers try to build stories and gameplay that will allow players to experience a true epic, immersive and engaging adventure while staying as close as possible to what the time was.
[GZ]: As we inch closer to the release of both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, interest from the average consumer lies within the visual and technical benefits. Can you touch on what these new machines do for development of this massive open world in terms of a technical and visual manner? Are the advantages as noticeable as you originally had in mind?
[JG]: For the moment we’re obviously really excited by the additional power we can work with. Graphically the difference is impressive and is already worth the change of console. But, in the near future we’ll really tackle all what these new hardware have to give. The connectivity tools, the more “open” infrastructure allowing developers to think about experiences that are not anymore confined to the TV and so much more. The difference won’t be on horsepower anymore but on real creativity.